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Community joins to celebrate Assiniboine graduation in Ebb & Flow

Community joins to celebrate Assiniboine graduation in Ebb & Flow

Written On: 20 April, 2017
Category: Graduation Indigenous Community
Related programs:  Applied Counselling Skills

The community of Ebb & Flow First Nation joined for a ceremony and feast to celebrate the achievements of twenty-two new Assiniboine alumni.

The cohort of students completed the Applied Counselling Skills certificate program part-time over two years in Ebb & Flow. All of the students pursued their studies in addition to working in the health and education sectors.

Stacy Beaulieu, a mother of six, recalls starting the program while eight months pregnant with her sixth child. She was looking for a career change, and this program offered a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"I put my mind to it. I'm never going to get this chance again—to be able to have it in my community, drive this far, and do it with six kids," said Beaulieu.

This is the second time Beaulieu has graduated from Assiniboine, the first being from the Early Childhood Education program in 1999. She worked for many years in a child care facility and wanted to take advantage of the program being offered close to home.

Beaulieu says she wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of her husband and sister-in-law, who stepped up to the plate so she could focus on her coursework. "Because of this program, I got a new job," said Beaulieu, who is now working as a child development worker with Ebb & Flow’s new Jordan’s Principle program in the health office.

Lillian Houle, who has been the health director in Ebb & Flow for 20 years, sees this type of education as invaluable. She advocated for bringing the program to the community and worked to secure funding.

"It's so important to have healthy people working for our community," said Houle. "Mental health is a big issue, not only in First Nations but everywhere. People trained as counsellors is a big benefit."

Houle has her own deeply personal stories dealing with loss and grief. She lost a nephew to suicide, and her mother was a residential school survivor.

“When traumatic events happen in our lives, such as my mom’s residential school experience, never once did I hear her talk about her trauma and I think that’s the case for a lot of residential school survivors,” said Houle. “We have to prepare our communities for whatever comes our way as a First Nation. This program has really helped."

Phyllis Racette was one of two valedictorians at the graduation ceremony. Giving her address in both Ojibway and English, she commented on how the class supported one another all the way through the program.

"We all helped each other," said Racette. "We weren't alone. If we were stuck, we only needed to ask for help and we had it."

Assiniboine has a long history of providing community-based education across the province, often in First Nations communities. For many Indigenous students, including Racette, one of the biggest barriers to post-secondary education is geographical access.

"We didn't have to travel the distances to get our schooling done. That was so appreciated," said Racette. 

“Education is the key to success,” said Wayne Desjarlais, Chief of Ebb and Flow First Nation. “When a community is able to take advantage of courses that can be delivered in the community, it makes it easier for students to succeed.”

Lorraine Johnson, chairperson for contract training at Assiniboine remarked on the effect 22 graduates with specific counselling training will have.

“I think of the analogy of dropping a pebble into a pond and the ripple of that one small, positive act may have a far-reaching impact. I compare this program to the impact of throwing a handful of pebbles into the same small pond,” said Johnson. “There are about 1,700 residents of this First Nation. Think of the impact that the 22 will have in a community this size.”

In the past, Assiniboine has partnered with Ebb & Flow First Nation to deliver programs including Mature Student High School, Pre-employment Construction Electrician, Practical Nursing and Comprehensive Health Care Aide.

Graduate Phyllis Racette sits before the graduation ceremony

Above: Graduate Phyllis Racette was one of two valedictorians at the graduation ceremony.

Below: Graduate Lillian Houle was instrumental in bringing the program to Ebb & Flow.

Graduate Lillian Houle

Below: Graduate Stacy Beaulieu with her youngest daughter Gianna.

Graduate Stacy Beaulieu with her daughter Gianna